Like any other county in Kenya, Kirinyaga county continues to face many challenges as a result of HIV and AIDS. HIV/AIDS prevalence among the people of Kirinyaga County is 3.3 % compared to the national average. Most of those affected are women and young persons aged between 15 to 24 years of age. AIDS-related mortality has resulted in an increasing number of widows, widowers and orphans. Young students drop out of school owing to the stigma and discrimination. The virus is being fueled by mainly sexuality among teenagers, economic vulnerabilities especially among women and youth, alcohol and substance abuse among others.
According to the Kenya AIDS Strategic Framework, the priority population for HIV in Kirinyaga county are as follows:
- Female Sex Workers especially in the urban centres. Most of the women who are sex workers are employed or work in farms but often engage in sex work to boost their income. Due to stigma, most pose as customers in clubs while others engage in the vice in towns away from where they live. Their clients cut across the sector but most are those living away from their spouses like police, civil servants, truck drivers and business people.
- Men who have sex with men are a group of the population that exists in Kirinyaga county. They are however not public due to the stigma. PGIO has identified a clinic in Mwea Town that caters for this group only. It floods with clients but especially at night.
- People who inject drugs are another group which has risen due to the increased usage of drugs in the county mostly happening in schools and universities. There have been reports of persons injecting drugs.
- People with disabilities in this county are also likely to be infected with the virus since they are unable to protect themselves from rape or sexual exploitation. They also lack access to HIV information.
Women are at a higher risk of being infected with HIV during sexual contact than men are. This is because the fragile tissues of the vagina can tear slightly during sex and let the virus enter the body. This is most likely among girls under the age of 18. Women who have HIV can pass the infection to their children during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. PGIO create awareness and educate women in Kirinyaga county to take the necessary steps to protect their children from infection.
PGIO is looking for Doors and well-wishers to help the organization to form units to address and mitigate the raging negative effect of the HIV epidemic. If you wish to help with regard to this issue please scroll down to the DONATE button or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org . Every Dollar/ Shilling Counts.
By Caroline Wangechi.